You can’t spoil a baby. All they want from you is love and care, and when they don’t get it, it can lead to a lifetime of trouble with bonding and healthy relationships. That’s one of the reasons why volunteers who hold premature babies are so vital in hospitals.
Babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit are likely there for an extended period of time. When parents can’t be there because of work or other children they need to care for, these infants could end up suffering, if it weren’t for some very important volunteers.
Carol Ann Lombardi is one of these volunteers, and she was recently featured in The Columbus Dispatch for her efforts. For 11 years, Lombardi has volunteered in the NICU singing to the babies, rocking them, and reciting nursery rhymes to them. These babies are often tiny, having been born prematurely. They may be hooked up to various wires, or are recovering from surgery. Lombardi spends three hours with them, sometimes holding up to 10 babies during that time.
“One day, I held exactly two,” she told The Columbus Dispatch. “I held one for two hours. When I tried to set her down, she cried – so I just held her. She needed sleep.”
In Mesa, Arizona, Mary Ann Niewald also volunteers with premature babies.
“It changes my whole life, holding these babies,” she told The Arizona Republic. “It has changed my outlook. Loving these babies fills my whole world with love.”
Another volunteer, Lou Ann Curry, visits the NICU at Baylor in Dallas. She had a son and a grandson in the NICU so she understands what it’s like to have to leave a child there.
“I enjoy just holding and cuddling the babies because it’s one of my favorite things to do. It’s just a highlight of my week to come up here and spend a day with these precious little ones,” she told The Dallas Morning News.
Studies have shown that pre-term babies who are held and cuddled gain weight faster, sleep better, and get healthy much quicker than those who are not.
A study published in Biological Psychiatry shows that infants love to be cuddled. The study found that babies who are constantly held tend to sleep better, can manage stress better, and can regulate their heart beat better.
Oxytocin – the bonding hormone – increases in both the mother and child when she holds her baby. Plus, babies with accelerated heart rates and stress calm down and their heartbeats become steady when someone picks them up. When children don’t receive this bonding time, it can be detrimental.
Even when parents can’t be with their children, they can know that they are receiving love and comfort from a caring person thanks to these volunteers.
“I cuddle them, make them comfortable and make them feel loved for a little while,” Lombardi said. “It gives me satisfaction that I’m giving them something.”
Babies the same ages as the ones being cuddled in the NICU are still legally aborted in the United States and around the world, despite the fact that they are capable of surviving outside the womb. Groups like Planned Parenthood fight to ensure that these babies remain victims, rather than patients cared for and loved by these amazing volunteers.